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GALLUP — The Navajo Nation government has received approximately $600 million from a federal relief package designed to help mitigate the economic impact from the coronavirus.

A press release from the Office of the Speaker states that the controller's office received the allocation on May 6. Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez confirmed the amount was received in a statement to The Daily Times.

While Speaker Seth Damon called for members of the tribe to submit comments about how to use the funding, Nez said his office is reviewing guidelines and provisions from the U.S. Department of the Treasury for utilizing the amount.

"This can't be a free-for-all spending spree," Nez said, then added that the money represents a portion allocated to the tribe under the CARES Act.

The funding comes a day after President Donald Trump revealed the amount in a roundtable with tribal leaders in Arizona, the Arizona Republic reported.

The amount was part of the overall $2.1 trillion allocation under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act passed by Congress and signed by Trump in March.

Included in the CARES Act was $8 billion for tribes, several which have been economically hit due to the closure of casinos and tourism, through the Coronavirus Relief Fund established by federal lawmakers, the Treasury Department and the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Several tribes, including the Navajo Nation, sued the Treasury Department for allowing for-profit Alaska Native Corporations eligible to receive funding.

Plaintiffs stated the corporations should not qualify as tribal governments and already generate billions in revenues from business dealings.

A federal judge issued on April 27 a preliminary injunction prohibiting the Treasury Department from paying out any amounts to the corporations.

Reuters reported on May 5 that the departments of Treasury and Interior stated they will hold the amounts calculated for the corporations until the lawsuit is resolved.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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